by Jessie Barr and Lena Hudson
HOW WE MADE our first short film, “TOO LONG AT THE FAIR”.
Written and Directed by Jessie Barr and Lena Hudson
Starring Jessie Barr, Lena Hudson and Chris Messina
Produced by Jessie Barr, Lena Hudson, Joe Dinnen & Tom O’Brien
Co-Produced by Libby Ewing
Watch it on SHORT OF THE WEEK
Making your first short film with a friend? 10 things that might help:
- Give yourself permission
2. You will learn to do things by doing them! DIG IN
3. Work the script. Be open to notes, take time, do the work.
4. You don’t know what you don’t know — that’s okay! Ask questions and be honest about it. We didn’t go to film school and there’s a lot of technical things we didn’t know before we started, and are still learning about. It takes vulnerability to say, “I don’t know” but you will learn a ton if you’re willing to risk looking stupid for a second.
5. Lean on each other / honor each others strengths and gifts.
7. Listen to your film, as you’re writing it, shooting it, editing it.
8. LET GO. Always working with this one! Time and time again we found that no matter how much we planned and wanted things a certain way the process required us to be flexible. Go with it.
9. No one will care about your idea as much as you. This sounds like a negative, but it’s actually really freeing. Take responsibility for the film YOU want to make.
10. There is never enough time or money so just make the film you can make right now!
ABOUT THE FILM:
“Too Long at the Fair” is very much inspired by our real-life friendship. We met in college and spent years making theater in basements in Bushwick and beyond. We’ve always shared a love of clowns, reckless abandon and characters who are playful, literary, and unapologetically themselves. After Jessie moved to Los Angeles (from NYC) we found ourselves missing working together creatively. Like so many women our age, we found ourselves grappling with impending adulthood and we wanted to capture that moment of transition in our heroines’ lives. We wanted to highlight their imperfections and watch them struggle against their own moral limits, so that they might realize they can save themselves and each other.
The premise of TLATF was inspired by a friend of ours, he was propositioned in a similar way to Val and Charlie in the film. We took this seed of an idea, which felt funny and gross and ultimately pretty sad and placed it in the larger context of these characters’ lives. We wanted to explore the way fantasy had a hold in each of these characters’ lives. Sexual fantasy, dream/play/princess fantasy, the deeper fantasies we have about what we hope our lives will look like, and what happens when those fantasies crash into reality.
WHY WE MADE THIS:
We’d never made a film before and we were passionate and very naive which was actually useful! We made this because we felt we had to. It was for our friendship, for our creative partnership, for young women who want to lead and share their gifts. We began our careers as actors, and transitioning into the roles of writer/director and being able to have ownership over the message and vision of a piece is something that has become increasingly important for both of us. It was also crucial for us as filmmakers to be a part of the dialogue around the underrepresentation of women in film and to act to help shift a broken paradigm. We knew that our story about a deep female friendship would benefit from having as many women as possible contribute their voices and skills, so we actively sought out women creatives. We’d never worked with a female cinematographer and we knew that was insane and we knew that we wanted to work with a woman behind the camera. We asked friends for recommendations, posted on job boards for women in film (shoutout to Mia Cioffi Henry for introducing us to the ICFC) and that’s how we found our amazing cinematographer Jac Fitzgerald. We’re proud to have had women as the majority on set both in front of and behind the camera.
HOW WE MADE THIS:
We spent about a year working on the script, sending scenes via celtx and then full drafts back and forth. We live on opposite coasts so each week we’d have epic phone calls and chat about notes and rewrites. We’d text each other when we got new ideas and every time we’d read a scene the other person had written it was like opening a present. We shared the script with close friends, collaborators and people we trusted including Chris Messina who we wrote the character of “Lee” for. Chris and Jessie’s husband, Tom O’Brien, grew up doing theater together in NYC. They’ve been creative collaborators and friends for decades. Chris was super generous and supportive of us. He gave amazing notes, asked questions and pushed us, strengthening the script. During filming we utilized a considerable amount of improv, Chris is really a master improviser! The final product remains very faithful to the script, but the performances really benefited from the freedom that process allowed. Our shooting script ended up being 17 pages long. We shot it in 3 days. The look of the film was inspired by the photography of Nan Goldin, Věra Chytilová’s “Daisies” and filmmaker Andrea Arnold’s visual style of poetic realism. The author Joan Didion was also a huge source of inspiration for the film as well as the unofficial title giver which was sourced from her essay on loving and leaving New York City, “Goodbye to All That”. We raised production funds by investing our own money, through donations from family, a ton of favors from friends and credit cards. We raised post production funds to finish the film through kickstarter. We had so much help and are so lucky to have had all the support we did. That said, filmmaking ain’t cheap, and it took a long time to pay off the debt from making this film. Not to mention the money for festival submissions / flights to festivals, etc. This isn’t to deter anyone. Making your own film is definitely possible! But the financial consideration is real and we are both still trying to figure out a more sustainable method of making our own work.
WATCHING THE FILM IN THE “ME TOO” ERA:
We have learned a lot from watching Too Long At The Fair within the context of the post me-too world. We shot this film before the Harvey Weinstein story hit, and its been interesting to see how there are overlapping themes present in the “Me Too” movement reflected in the film. It feels almost prescient in some ways. But while the film is in conversation with the themes that came out of that moment, it isn’t a story where there is a clear victim or predator. We were really interested in exploring the ever-shifting power dynamics between these characters, the societal and gender stereotypes and economic forces at play as well as the power of consent. It was very important to us that all of the characters had nuance and depth, and that they all participate in their own disillusionment.
GETTING IT OUT THERE
After all that work and preparation it took nine months for us to get into a festival. Nine months of 100% rejection and a fuck ton of self-doubt. We felt very passionate about trying to go the festival route because we both wanted that experience. But that process was another exercise in trust, trusting that this little film would find it’s way into the world in it’s own time. Now that the film has been released online, it feels very satisfying to be able to share it on a wider scale. We hope you give it a watch, it might not be perfect — but it’s ours. And we’re damn proud.
“That was the year, my twenty-eighth, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and every procrastination, every mistake, every word, all of it.”- Joan Didion
“and this season lasted one
moment, like the pause
between dusk and darkness, between fury and peace,
but, for such as our earth is now, it lasted long. “- Derek Walcott
Official Site / Tlatfmovie.com
Instagram / @tlatfmovie
Twitter / @tlatfmovie
Facebook / Too Long at the Fair